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LATEST REVIEWS
BELLADONNA OF SADNESS
"Witchcraft, well-crafted."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There wasn't much of a market for Japanese animation in the United States when Eiichi Yamamoto's "Belladonna of Sadness" was released in 1973, let alone films with the sort of limited animation and adult content that Yamamoto and producer Osamu Tezuka (often justifiably described as Japan's Walt Disney) were making in that period. As a result, it would take over forty years and a restoration for this film to get a theatrical and home video release in America, and while it's probably not worth that long a wait, it is worth discovering, especially for fans of art-house animation." (more)
MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART
"Good in both past, present, and future."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The future is just as much a part of our lives as the past, but it often makes storytellers wary. Who wants to remembered for guessing wrong on details, let alone major happenings? Is risky, but sometimes your story has to extend that far in order to fully express what is teller is getting at, the way "Mountains May Depart" ("Shan he gu ren" in Mandarin) does. Its unconventional third act is not all that makes it an intriguing and noteworthy drama, though it is an essential part of the story." (more)
LOVE & FRIENDSHIP
"Ladies Just Wanna Have Funds"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Over the years, the works of Jane Austen have served as the basis for any number of movies, especially in the last couple of decades following the international success of the 1995 British television adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” ranging from straightforward takes on her classic novels to more off-beat takes that have transported them to modern times, reworked them into full-scale Bollywood musicals and even thrown marauding zombies into the mix. Some of these films have been quite good—I am especially fond of the charming “Emma” update “Clueless” and the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley, even though i would just as soon eat glass as sit through another version of that chestnut—but in most cases, the films have lacked the spark that Austen’s prose contains and which continues to resonate with readers to this day. Too often, there seems to be a bit of disconnect between the filmmakers and the material—they know Austen’s words but not the music—and the results tend to feel like elaborate book reports that replicate the events of the novels but which fail to find a cinematic equivalent to her singular voice. One filmmaker whose work has invited favorable comparisons to Jane Austen in the past is Whit Stillman, whose past works have all been witty and erudite comedies of manners in the vein of Austen’s books and whose first film, “Metropolitan,” could be seen as a loose, contemporary riff on “Mansfield Park.” With his latest work, “Love & Friendship,” Stillman has undertaken his first official Austen adaptation and I cannot easily think of a more felicitous combination of artistic voices—not since Ang Lee and Emma Thompson took on “Sense & Sensibility” has Austen gotten such a top-notch screen version of her work. The trailers may make it seem like just another stuffy literary adaptation but I assure you that it is a wickedly funny delight from start to finish that is, despite the age of its source material, as fresh, vibrant and alive as anything else out there right now." (more)
NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING
"Even More Angry Birds (Joke Probably Funnier In England)"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Considering the fact that the original “Neighbors” was one of the more obnoxious and stridently unfunny comedies of recent memory, it should probably come as no surprise that the inevitable sequel would be just as devoid of laughs—even the sequels to good comedies tend to chafe under the strain of coming up with jokes that aren’t merely retreads of ones deployed the first time around. However, the most frustrating aspect about “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” is that, unlike the first film’s war of attrition between new parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne and the obnoxious fraternity led by party-hearty heartthrob Zac Efron that moves in next door to them, this one actually has a genuinely inspired idea at its center that it then proceeds to completely squander." (more)
NICE GUYS, THE
"The Other Angry Birds"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“The Nice Guys” is a film that feels like what might have resulted if a nervous studio executive had taken a look at an early cut of “Inherent Vice” and decided to take the project away from Paul Thomas Anderson and give it to his 14-year-old nephew. The film has the same hazy 70s milieu and neo-noir trappings shot through with bits of pure goofiness as the earlier film but cranks up the gratuitous violence, nudity and foul language to staggering extremes. I hasten to point out, however, that this is more of an observation than a criticism because while “The Nice Guys” is nowhere near as good as “Inherent Vice,” it does offer viewers enough fun, albeit of the decidedly adult variety, to make it worth a look, even if most of it will fade from mind within a couple of days of watching it and the stuff that does stick does so largely because of its moral and ethical dubiousness." (more)
MA MA
"Vanity Project, Thy Name Is Penelope"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Penelope Cruz is one of those rare performers who can bring some kind of life to even the weakest material with her unique combination of talent, beauty and undeniable star charisma—hell, she even managed to get me to start liking Pedro Almodovar films, a feat that not even the combined forces of my critical brethren and Michael Barker had been able to achieve over the years—but not even she can save “Ma Ma,” a bizarre medical melodrama that is weird and often off-putting for its first half before going completely off the rails in the second." (more)
NICE GUYS, THE
"Nice Guys Finish Last"
3 stars
alejandroariera says... "In Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys,” being nice in 1977 Los Angeles (or for that matter anytime, any place) is synonymous with being at best naïve and at worst a loser. In one scene, a group of protesters lie down on the steps leading to a federal government agency pretending to be dead as the result of air pollution…while wearing gas masks. In another, a potential client begins to willingly sign a check for $10,000 when one of the two nice guys who give the film its title tells her that he only bills $5,000 for his services. At best these folks get to live to fight another day; at worst, they may end up in a cold slab at the local morgue. Black may be a realist, some might even accuse him of being a misanthrope. But he is still on the side of the angels, even when the scales of justice weigh against them." (more)
WITCH, THE
"Eggers is a director to watch."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "In 'The Witch,' writer/director Robert Eggers drops us into the 17th century and leaves us there." (more)
KILL ZONE 2
"Not really a sequel, but still lots of excellent action."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The standard "you don't need to see the first to enjoy the sequel" comments apply more than usual with "Kill Zone 2" ("Saat po long 2" in Cantonese, "Sha puo lang 2" in Mandarin) - it retains a couple of cast members from the first, though in different roles, with the main connection being that both are unusually good fusions of gritty crime movies with high-octane martial-arts action. The "sequel" may not be quite the instant classic of Hong Kong action cinema that its predecessor was, but when the fighting starts, it gets close." (more)
MONEY MONSTER
"Bernie bro vs. Clinton bundler. Nobody wins."
2 stars
Jaycie says... "It's difficult for me to review this movie without going on a long, long rant about how anyone who a) invests their life savings in a single stock, no matter how angelic the company is, and b) does so based on a tip from a TV show is a class-A moron. But, as any such TV show SHOULD tell you, this review is strictly informational in nature and is not intended as personal financial advice." (more)

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